The rebuilding of the downtown Madison Public Library is well underway. Since early spring Mifflin Street has been narrowed to a one-way trickle of car traffic, and the average passerby has witnessed a monolithic example of early-60’s architecture being whittled away to it’s bare bones.
The grand opening of the new space is slated for September 2013.
Thanks to the efforts of the Madison Public Library Foundation (and Trent Miller– my friend and hero) funds were raised this fall to purchase one of my bookend pieces as well as one of Heath Matysek-Snyder‘s stacked wood pieces for the library’s permanent collection. Both will be on view in the new library with new pieces by fellow UW-Madison affiliated artists Tom Loeser, Derrick Buisch, Hongtao Zhou, and Sofia Arnold as well as works by an handful of selected nationally and internationally based artists.
In October, Trent and I narrowed down the location for both the bookend piece and Daily Exchange (which the library acquired following Bookless in January). We found a great spot for the bookends in the “reading room” on the third floor, next to a bank of windows. The piece will be visible from the street on Mifflin and Fairchild, and be on the same floor as the new library art gallery. (Yes, the library has a gallery that will show rotating exhibitions!) Daily Exchange is going to be located on the second floor in the center of the main room, protected from sunlight to maintain the integrity of the plastics and heat sensitive paper it contains.
In early November I met with the city architect, Bryan Cooper, to iron out a few logistical issues related to installing the bookend piece in a public space. The gridded bookend stacks weigh close to 1,000 pounds in total and hang in close proximity to each other requiring a reinforced wall to support it. We also had to figure out how to make the piece function within the space while adhering to the American Disabilities Act, which requires that the piece must be suspended no more than 27″ from the floor or it will require additional architectural elements, like a fixed pedestal or base. The result is that the bookend piece will be a bit taller and skinnier than I had originally thought. After visiting the site and seeing the space I have begun to think this all might serendipitously be for the better.
Here are a few images of the new library and my recent tour, beginning with an architectural sketch of the new building:
This is what it looks like now, beginning with the third floor:
The third floor facing Fairchild St. from Mifflin St. The capitol building is one block up. (Photo credit: Toby Kaufman-Bueler)
The third floor, across from the Overture Center for the Arts with Bryan Cooper. (Photo credit: Toby Kaufman-Bueler)
Imagine a wall of windows here, facing the Overture. Below the 2″x 4″ bracing there is a stairwell leading to the second floor.
The bookend piece will be at the top of the staircase on this wall. (Photo credit: Toby Kaufman-Bueler)
This is a shot from the second floor of the bottom of the stairwell. Trent and I are checking out what the view will be of the bookends from below. (Photo credit: Toby Kaufman-Bueler)
On the second floor they removed the drop ceiling, exposing the honeycombed cement structure underneath. This will be painted and remain visible in the new building.
The windows on the second floor have quadrupled in size. I swear, every third word on the tour was “glass.” This library will have lots of natural light.
This is a view of the first floor, which used to be the stacks- a place that was off limits to the general public. This corner is where the new children’s section is going to be located. The purplish light against the far wall is coming through a hole they cut in the ceiling. Yep, more windows!
Here are a few architectural drawings of the new building to help with picturing what it will look like:
This is a sketch of the windows that will be facing Fairchild St. Note the ceiling windows in the children’s area. The bookend piece will be on the Third Floor, on the same level as the Meeting Room.
They are working on a green roof, which will be accessible from the third floor. There is talk of having rotating outdoor exhibitions in the garden, so stay tuned.
This is what it will look like from the Overture Center on Mifflin Street.
Here’s the architectural sketch from Fairchild Street.
This is an image of the “reading room” on the 3rd floor. The bookend piece will be hanging on the tall narrow wall directly behind the blonde guy.
This is a sketch the architects and I put together mapping out the rough dimensions of the bookend piece on the wall in the “reading room.” The configuration will pretty much fit the dimensions within the horizontal stripes (imagine 200 stacks of bookends gridded into a rectangle in their place).
The opportunity to display the bookends on a tall, thin wall required me to reconfigure the piece over the past month. What was formerly titled Arch, will not an be an arch at all. This challenge was bizarre at first. Shifting the shape from a smooth slope, which has always reminded me of the houses on the hilltops in the Bay Area to something so formally simple was initially worrisome. I feared an essential element of the piece would be lost. However after visiting the construction site I’ve left convinced that this new shape is going to work. No, it won’t be the same, but when I visualize approaching the piece while ascending the stairs from the second floor, watching it take shape from below- or imagine how it’s height along the 16′ wall will accentuate the new vaulted ceilings, I am excited for it. This incarnation of the bookends is more reflective of the building structures that surround capitol square, which works with the site.
As mentioned in the paragraphs leading up to this, finding the right place and configuration has been months in the making- and there are many more to follow before these pieces will be seen by the public. I am truly thankful for the people involved in this undertaking that believe in the importance of maintaining artistic integrity in the midst of managing the logistics of creating a conducive space for public life. I’m looking forward to what’s next.